Scientific e-Lexicography for Africa

Tools Overview

Please try out our tools - we'd be very thankful for your feedback

(tested on chrome browser for windows - contact us)

Afrikaanse idiome-woordeboek (prototype)

This project has been supported financially by a grant from the German Ministry for Education and Research, BMBF administered by the DAAD, as well as by grants from the Stigting Neerlandistiek (University of Stellenbosch) and research funding from the Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria. The prototype has been designed within the framework of the Function Theory of Lexicography, expanded through inputs from other lexicographic frameworks and Information Science. The project was conceptualised by Prof. Rufus Gouws (University of Stellenbosch) and Prof. Theo Bothma (University of Pretoria), and originally also Prof Henning Bergenholtz (Centre for Lexicography, University of Aarhus). The project leaders gratefully acknowledge the work of a number of collaborators, inter alia Mr Paul Bothma, Dr Liezl Potgieter, Ms Liezl Ball and Ms Joukje Geertsema, as well as the very valuable input from Prof. Ulrich Heid and Dr Gertrud Faaß (University of Hildesheim), Prof. Danie Prinsloo (University of Pretoria) and other collaborators within the SeLA project. The prototype contains 55 detailed entries (compiled by some of our collaborators), as well as the approximately 3,500 partial entries from the original source, Meyer De Villiers and Rufus Gouws. 1989. Idiome-woordeboek: verklarings met afsonderlike Afrikaanse en Engelse begrippelyste. Kaapstad: Nassau, used with permission.

Sepedi relative builder

The Sepedi relative builder The Relative is a complicated construction in Sepedi involving one or more nouns, a demonstrative, a subject concord, an object concord, a verb stem with a relative suffix. The Relative builder helps the user to compile the construction correctly by providing automatic generation of the correct demonstrative, subject concord, object concord, relative suffix as well as a lookup-procedure for nouns and verbs if the user does not know the Sepedi noun(s) and verb.

See also the euralex 2014 article by Daniel J. Prinsloo, Theo J.D. Bothma and Ulrich Heid.


eZulu is a first version of an integrated e-dictionary translating possessive constructions from English to Zulu. Zulu possessive constructions are difficult to learn for non-mother tongue spea- kers. When translating from English into Zulu, a speaker needs to be acquainted with the nominal classification of nouns indicating possession and possessor. Furthermore, (s)he needs to be informed about the morpho-syntactic rules associated with certain combinations of noun classes. Lastly, knowledge of morpho-phonetic changes is also required, because these influence the orthography of the output word forms. Our approach is a novel one in that we combine e-lexicography and natural language processing by developing a (web) interface supporting learners, as well as other users of the dictionary to produce Zulu possessive constructions. The final dictionary that we intend to develop will contain several thousand nouns which users can combine as they wish. It will also translate single words and frequently used multiword expressions, and allow users to test their own translations. On request, information about the morpho-syntactic and morpho-phonetic rules applied by the system are displayed together with the translation. Our approach follows the function theory: the dictionary supports users in text production, at the same time fulfilling a cognitive function.

See also the euralex 2014 article on eZulu by Sonja Bosch and Gertrud Faaß

eZulu extension to Xhosa

As an extension of eZulu, instead of translating English possessive constructions into Zulu, it is now possible to also translate them into Xhosa. You can try the beta version here. Again, we are very thankful for any comments and/or error messages.

An ontology of morphemes (beta version)

At our ontology you can browse an electronic knowledge base, namely a morpho-syntactic database structured as an ontology of linguistic categories, containing linguistic units of two related languages of the South African Bantu group: Northern Sotho and Zulu. These languages differ significantly in their surface orthographies, but are very similar on the lexical and sub-lexical levels. It is therefore our goal to describe the morphemes of these languages in a single common database in order to outline and interpret commonalities and differences in more detail. Moreover, the relational database which is developed defines the underlying morphemic units (morphs) for both languages. It will be shown that the electronic part-of- speech ontology goes hand in hand with part-of-speech tagsets that label morphemic units. This database is designed as part of a forthcoming system providing lexicographic and linguistic knowledge on the official South African Bantu languages.

Note that the online version of the ontology is still a beta-version, you might find some data inconsistencies.

See also the Nordic Journal of African Studies articles on the ontology: 31/3 (2012) by Gertrud Faaß, Sonja Bosch, and Elsabe Taljard and 24/2 (2015) by Elsabe Taljard, Gertrud Faaß, and Sonja Bosch.


Karsten Spindler's SAMTERM project: a draft of a multiligual terminology database. Unfortunately, there is not much data included (you may try e.g. morpheme, linguistics, morphology, stem, prefix, suffix)